In this section you will find information on:
Reasons why people use drugs
Think about people’s choices when it comes to drug use; every person has his or her own motives and reasons for doing what they do. While some motives are common, there is no single explanation for the things individuals choose to do. Some sources will try to tell you that drug use as all-good or all-bad, but this is misleading and ignores the fact that people use drugs for a variety of reasons.
Before judging people based on whether they use drugs or not, think about some of the reasons people use drugs:
- Social reasons – Some people use drugs because it’s often a shared activity that makes them feel like part of a group. Some people also use drugs because they make them feel less inhibited, and more outgoing then they usually would.
- Pleasure/Euphoria – Some people enjoy the physical and psychological sensations they get from using drugs; drugs make them feel good.
- Mood Altering Effects – If a person is sad, depressed or stressed out, they may turn to drugs to forget their troubles. This works for a little while, but the problems usually do not disappear unless they are addressed directly.
- Rebellion – Some people, especially young people, use drugs as a form of rebellion, against their parents, teachers, or other authority figures, to prove how ‘bad’ they are.
- Curiosity or Boredom – Some people try drugs because they are curious about them, because it seems exciting to them or because they have nothing better to do.
- Religious/Spiritual Ritual – There are many groups and religions which use certain drugs as part of their ceremonies or rituals, often because they feel the drug brings them closer to their god(s) or deities, closer to themselves, or closer to each other.
- Medical reasons – Most people use legal drugs as medications at some point in their lives, but some of the illegal drugs listed on this website have been shown to have therapeutic properties, meaning that these illegal drugs are sometimes used for legitimate medical purposes, even though the user might face legal problems for doing so.
- Sports – Some people use drugs to improve their performance in sports.
- Sex – Some people use drugs in an attempt to improve or change their sexual experiences.
No matter what choices someone make when it comes to drugs, keep in mind the things discussed above and try to understand a person’s choices before judging them. If you are concerned about a friend’s or family member’s choices, try to have an open conversation with them, and involve an adult if you want to or feel that you have to, but realize that what this person needs is your respect and support, not judgment.
Assessing your use
If you choose to use, check where you’re at... Take a critical look at your own drug use.
If you’ve chosen to use drugs, you can limit or control many of the risks associated with it by thinking critically about your personal drug use, and making changes when you think they are necessary. If you keep an eye on yourself, it will be harder for your drug use to slip out of your own control.
Take a look at this scale of drug use and think about where you fit in:
- Non-User – people who choose to abstain from substance use
- Experimentation – people who have tried drugs only a few times, they are usually about to make the decision to return to being a non-user or to move on to being an occasional user or a social user.
- Occasional User – people who use drugs infrequently, usually for special occasions, and tend not to get intoxicated. Their drug use is not associated with life problems.
- Social User – people who use drugs only in social settings, as a part of socializing. Their drug use is not associated with life problems, and using drugs is not important to them in comparison with to other life activities and experiences.
- Instrumental User – people who use drugs more regularly with the intention of seeking pleasure or avoiding pain (physical or psychological).
- Habitual User – people who use drugs often or daily. For these people, drugs are beginning to create serious problems in one or more areas of their lives, but they still have some choice about using.
- Compulsive User – people who experience an overwhelming physical or psychological need to use drugs. These people experience no real choice about using drugs and often feels no control over the amount they use either. The compulsive user can be considered addicted.
- Binge User – people who use larger amounts of drugs with the goal of intoxication on a sporadic basis with periods of little or no use in between. Binge use can be very problematic and is often associated with violence, hostility/aggressiveness, domestic/family problems, work/school problems, arrest and hospitalization.
Are you comfortable with your spot on the scale?
If your answer is yes, think about which point you would begin to feel uncomfortable at and what you can do to keep yourself from reaching that point. What are steps that you can take to avoid letting your drug use take over your life?
If your answer is no, think about why not and what steps you are willing to take to change that. If your drug use is causing problems in your life, if the risks you are taking outweigh the benefits you were seeking, if you’ve forgotten why you started using drugs in the first place, it might be time to think about adjusting your drug use.
You can use many of the resources listed in the Get Help section as a starting point for tips and advice on how to further assess and change your drug use behaviours and habits. Even just talking to a friend, family member or someone else you trust can help put perspective on a situation that might seem overwhelming.